Application season is fast approaching. The Common App has been updated as of August 1st, more and more colleges are releasing their own private applications, and things are rolling!

Now that you’ve narrowed your college list down and decided where you want to apply, the next big question is: how to apply. In general, there are three options to choose between when deciding how to apply: Regular Decision, Early Decision, Early Action (and, rolling admissions, but we’ll get to that later).

Regular Decision refers to applying to a college under the ‘normal process’ by which students apply by published deadlines (often in January or February), with promise of receiving an admissions decision no later than April 1st of their senior year.

Early Decision is a binding agreement in which a student applies to one college or university by an earlier deadline than regular decision. The student will also be notified of their admissions decision much sooner than April 1st (typically by January 1st). If the student is accepted, they must enroll in that college or university and withdrawal all other applications.   The most common ED deadline is November 1st.

Early Action is similar to Early Decision, except that it is a nonbinding agreement and (in most cases) students may apply to multiple colleges under an early action plan. The most common EA deadline is also November 1st, but some schools have EA deadlines as soon as October 1st or 15th.

Both early decision and early action can be beneficial as typically there are higher admission rates among early action and early decision pools than there are in regular admission pools. Applying ED, specifically, can be a great way to increase your chances of getting accepted into your dream school. For example last year only 3,415 of the 31,462 students who applied to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee were accepted.   That’s an 11% admission rate. BUT, 863 of the 3,592 students who applied to Vandy under an early decision plan were accepted. That’s a 24% admission rate- more than double the regular decision admit rate!

Applying early action or early decision is a great way to demonstrate interest in a college, something admissions officers are placing more and more emphasis on each year.

But, the most important thing for you to note is that each college has their own specific policies and rules in place when it comes to applying early action and early decision. If you are at all considering these options, you must research each college’s specific policy.

There can also be drawbacks to applying early. The most obvious drawback of applying early decision is that it is a binding agreement. Applying ED and being accepted means eliminating the opportunity to receive alternate and possibly greater financial aid awards from opposing colleges.

If you’re not sure which application option is best for you, schedule a meeting with a Student Services Consultant to learn more and to weigh out your pros and cons. We can help you make the best decision for you.

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